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Palm Beach Post

January 4, 2018

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Boca Raton Magazine


By John Shuff


May/June 2014 Issue


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Boca Raton Magazine May-June 2014



Unicorn Village Academy Grand Opening


December 3, 2013


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UVA Grand Opening


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Eye on South Florida



WPLG Local 10 News


By Kristi Krueger


September 6, 2013


Students with learning disorders make history at school:


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WPTV News Channel 5


By Marissa Bagg


August 28, 2013


New autism school focuses on helping teens and young adults prepare for everyday life:


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WPBF Channel 25


By Erin Guy


August 19, 2013


School for special-needs students opens in Boca Raton:


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Lighting, seating, paint key in welcoming autistic students to new school:


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New High School for Students with Autism Opens in West Boca


By Marci Shatzman


August 7, 2013


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Lessons for Life


By Susan R. Miller


August 2013


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 Boca Raton Observer August 2013 Family Issue pg 74   Boca Raton Observer August 2013 Family Issue pg 75





Today in America with Terry Bradshaw


July 15, 2013





Foundation Opening School in West Boca for Students with Learning Disabilities


By Marci Shatzman


November 4, 2012


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sun sentinel 11-4-12



Unicorn to Open High School as JCC Tenant


By Marci Shatzman


October 24, 2012


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Unicorn to open high school as JCC tenant



Focus on Strengths Improves Autistic Teens’ Social Skills


ByRick Nauert PhDSenior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on August 2, 2012


Emerging research suggests that given the appropriate programming, autistic teens can improve their social skills during adolescence.


Most would agree that junior high and high school years are emotionally challenging for all teens, and, for adolescents withautismspectrum disorders (ASD), the time is often difficult. Deficits in social skills among teens with ASD may result in students being ostracized and bullied by their classmates.


\Paradoxically, the new approach developed by researchers at the KoegelAutismCenter at the University of CaliforniaSanta Barbara hinges on exploiting the unique strengths of teens with ASD – their high intelligence and very specific interests.


Researchers discovered that focusing on these assets allows adolescents to be as capable as anyone else of forging strong friendships. In addition, the research findings demonstrate that the area of the brain that controls such social behavior is not as damaged in adolescents with ASD as was previously believed.


Researchers have reported their findings in theJournal of Positive Behavior Interventions.


“The problem is that their restricted interests can dominate their lives and further push away people they’d like to get to know,” said Robert Koegel, Ph.D., director of the Koegel Autism Center and the study’s lead author.


“They’re so highly focused on that interest, people think they’re weird. But by involving themselves in an activity around the interest, they not only make friends but also become valued members of the group. Their specialized skill becomes a strength.”


In the study, the research team took a creative approach to helping three boys with ASD to interact with their peers. Rather than discourage their sometimes-obsessive interests, the researchers helped set up social clubs around them and invited students who do not have ASD to join.


The clubs provided a venue for the ASD students to display their special interests and abilities, and helped them engage with their peers in a more meaningful way.


Koegel offered the example of a student with ASD who has a keen interest in computer graphics. The team created a graphic design club in which students would design logos for various companies and businesses.


Because most of the students lacked the necessary expertise, they depended on their classmate with ASD to make the venture a success.


“When he was able to interact on a topic in which he was interested, he was able to demonstrate more normal social behavior,” Koegel said. “He not only made friends with his fellow members, he was elected club president.”


According to Koegel, the findings are also significant because they indicate a higher degree of brain functionality than researchers had previously associated with ASD adolescents.


“It has been commonly believed that the part of the brain related to social skills is so damaged that adolescents with ASD are incapable of normal social interaction,” he said. “We demonstrated that not to be the case. Once you can motivate kids to try things, they make dramatic and rapid improvement, which shows the brain is not as damaged as first thought.”


Experts believe the study illuminates the critical time period when children who were diagnosed with ASD reach adolescence and young adulthood.


“This study is so important because it suggests so much optimism,” Koegel said.


“It shows the brain isn’t as damaged as people thought. And it shows that otherwise unhappy individuals can lead more fulfilling lives.”


He added that the research team was pleasantly surprised to see that the students with ASD became highly valued members of their groups, and were given a great deal of dignity and respect.


They also noted that, without any instructions or encouragement from any of the researchers, many school peers enthusiastically joined in these club activities and had a great deal of enjoyment throughout and beyond the time frame of the study.


“In short, this was a lot of fun for everyone,” Koegel said.


Source:University of California, Santa Barbara




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